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Why The Southern States Are Ahead

Kham Khan Suan Hausing

By Samuel Paul  and Kala Seetharam Sridhar
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2015, pp. 260, Rs. 850.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 12 December 2015

It has for long been an accepted economic wisdom that the trajectory of economic development taken by ‘constituent units of a country’ (hereafter as ‘States’) tends to converge over time. In a timely intervention, Samuel Paul and Kala Seetharam Sridhar have, in their co-authored book entitled, The Paradox of India’s North-South Divide: Lessons from the States and Regions (hereafter as The Paradox) ‘counter’ this by drawing from variegated economic experiences of North and South Indian States. They examine the why and how of North-South divide by invoking a set of ‘proximate’ and ‘foundational’ factors to (i) test the ‘credibility’ of the claim that southern States performed better than their northern counterparts, (ii) examine ‘when and in what respect’ the South performed better than the North, and (iii) examine the ‘reasons behind the paradox’ of the North-South economic divide (pp. 5–6). While acknowledging the import of ‘proximate’ factors like literacy, health, education, infrastructure, and urbanization, among others, Paul and Sridhar contend that ‘foundational’ factors like governance, law and order are critical in determining divergent economic outcomes of North and South Indian States (pp. 33–34). Organized into six chapters (including introduction and conclusion), the authors have marshalled a wealth of data and evidence to support this argument. Mindful of the limitations of econometric data alone in explaining the ‘underlying causes’ of the North-South divide, Paul and Sridhar ambitiously adopt a ‘holistic and multidisciplinary app-roach’ by drawing insights from economics, sociology, political science, history and management (p. 7, p. 22). This is intended to overcome a propensity to rely on ‘variables that are easier to identify and measure’ and thereby ignore ‘factors that are qualitative and difficult to quantify’ (p. 32). The authors undertake a historical and controlled comparative study of Tamil Nadu (TN) and Uttar Pradesh (UP) before they embark on a more comprehensive comparative study of a cluster of North and South Indian States. Their choice of TN and UP was informed by the fact that ‘both were metro regions of two large presidencies’ with ‘common administrative systems, tradition and policies inherited from the British colonial past’ and ‘partly because it was easier to track and understand specific developments and policy changes ... in individual states than at the level of a region consisting of several states’ (p. 23). It is notable that the growth of the industrial sector in UP caught up with TN and surpassed the latter only in the last few years of the ...

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